Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month!

Here in the Special Collections Research Center, we are honoring Women’s History Month by highlighting the collections and ephemera that document women’s contributions to American history.

Below, we have a pamphlet from the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, dated from 1910. Here the authors connect a women’s work in the home with the broader work of cleaning up society.

Ephemera from the Rare Book Collection,”Women in the Home,” by Susan W. Fitzgerald, JK1896 .F58 1910

From the Massachusetts Woman’s Suffrage Association is the follow pamphlet, documenting the states where women had the right to vote, or a partial right to vote.

Map of United States Showing Progress of Equal Suffrage, 1915, JK1896 .M36 1915

As of 1915, women were legally allowed to vote in only a few states. The 19th Amendment would not ratified until 192o, which gave women the right to vote nationally.

Equal rights for women would remain an issue in politics even after the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to informed and active participation in government and works to increase understanding of public policy issues.

In the Special Collections Research Center, we have the records of the League of Women Voters Fairfax, C0031. This collection contains multiple documents that outline the 1970s battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, never ratified.

Poster outlining “ERA Month,” and the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment, League of Women Voters Fairfax Collection C0031, Box 11, Folder 4, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries

In the above outline, for “ERA Month”, the authors assure its reader that “The ERA will not take women out of the home, require them to take jobs or to contribute half the financial support of their family. Rather, it would recognize for the first time the role and the contribution to the support of the family that the homemaker makes.”

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. For rare books, search the library catalog, limiting your search to Fenwick Special Collections.

You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

Ok…So we found THIS during Rare Book Inventory.

Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung erlebte. Adolf Hitler und sein Weg zu Grossdeutschland, 1940. Book is in Special Collections Research Center, Rare Books, DB 96 .H63.

We are in the midst of doing an inventory or our rare books collection in SCRC. While working in the folio section, a colleague and I stumbled upon this disturbing yet intriguing volume.  Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte: Adolf Hitler und sein Weg zu Grossdeutschland (How Austria Experienced its Liberation: Adolf Hitler and his Route to Greater Germany) tells the story of the early years of Adolph Hitler, Nazism, and the Third Reich.  This time period, from Hitler’s birth up to the Anschluss, or annexation of Austria in 1938, might be considered “the good years” for people sympathetic to the Nazis’ cause.  Luckily for the rest of the world, things went downhill for the Nazi’s in the years after that.


Title page to Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung erlebte. Adolf Hitler und sein Weg zu Grossdeutschland. This page, and others throughout the book appear to have been made to resemble woodcuts.



Published in 1940, Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte has over 300 illustrations. The majority of them are small tipped-in reproductions of original black and white photographs, each 2 inches by 2.5 inches. This gives it the look of a sticker-collection book. The rest of the illustrations are larger printed photographs and drawings that resemble woodcuts.

The typeface used in Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte is the old Fraktur, which originated in the 16th century. Ironically, one year later Hitler banned the use of this font (which was used in both this book and on the cover of Hitler’s earlier work, Mein Kampf) claiming it was a Jewish font  since it was often seen on Judaic printed materials.  

This page shows images of Hitler’s parents and boyhood home, as well as other buildings relevant to his young years.

While Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte probably was intended to be a sort of celebratory “coffee table book” in 1940’s Germany, it now serves as a visible reminder of the dangers of allowing individuals with sinister motivations to attain positions of power.













Pages of Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte use the Fraktur typeface. Fraktur was banned one year after the publication of this book.

George Mason University Mentioned in the Film Hidden Figures

When was the last time you heard George Mason University mentioned in a major motion picture? For this author, never. But in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, George Mason University found its way into the script during a memorable part of the film.  The reference to Mason was made by Janelle Monae in her portrayal of Mary Jackson, a NASA engineer and one of three African-American women who played key roles in the early development of the United States’ space program.

Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson in “Hidden Figures” Twentieth Century Fox Studios. Screenshot from video clip accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aiWlZJ6Pfg on 8 Mar 2016.

During the scene Mary Jackson is standing before a judge in a Hampton, Virginia courtroom to ask permission to attend night school classes in graduate-level math and physics sponsored by the University of Virginia and held in the then-whites-only Hampton High School.  When the judge informs her that segregation is the law in Virginia, and that an African American woman attending a white school is unheard of, Jackson pleads with him:

“Your Honor, you of all people should understand the importance of being first…You were the first in your family to serve in the  armed forces. U.S. Navy. The first to attend university.  George Mason… Your Honor, of all the cases you will hear today, which one will matter in a hundred years? Which one will you make the first?”

While the scene in the movie takes place sometime in 1961, as a later reference in the scene to Alan B. Shepard implies, we know that Mary Jackson actually attended the classes several years earlier and completed the program in 1958. A 1961 reference to George Mason University would have been a bit premature.  Mason was known as George Mason College (it became George Mason University in April of 1972), was a two-year community college, and had only been in operation for four years by 1961. So, it is highly unlikely that this jurist would have just finished his work at George Mason and became a high-ranking judge.

Nevertheless, it was gratifying to see that the writers of the film chose George Mason as the institution for the judge to have attended. This might spur some interesting reference inquiries in the future!

The Swing Mikado: Gilbert and Sullivan Reinvented in 1938

Cast photo of Swing Mikado, Chicago, 1938. Federal Theatre Project photographs #C0205 Box 46, Folder 17

Here in the Special Collections Research Center, we are gearing up for #GandS2017 – our celebration of all things Gilbert and Sullivan, culminating in the opening of an exhibit of materials from the David and Annabelle Stone Gilbert and Sullivan Collection.

One of Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular comic operas is The Mikado; or, The Town of Titpu. It opened on March 14, 1885 and ran for 672 performances as a production of the famous D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

The Mikado remains popular, and in the years since it opened, has been updated and re-imagined. In 1938, The Swing Mikado premiered in Chicago as a production of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Theatre Project. The production was conceived and directed by Harry Minturn, with swing re-orchestrations of Sullivan’s music by Gentry Warden. First staged by an all-black company in Chicago, it became a huge hit with audiences black and white alike. It also featured a live swing orchestra. The show was later produced on Broadway to similar acclaim.

Cast photo of Swing Mikado, Chicago, 1938. Federal Theatre Project photographs #C0205 Box 46, Folder 17

The Federal Theatre Project itself was a New Deal program to fund live artistic programs during the Great Depression, one of numerous relief measures to employ artists, writers and theatre workers.